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Two Canterbury university professors among the list of recipients of awards

A university professor whose work enabled intellectually-disabled athletes to compete in the London Paralympics is among six people from the district to be recognised in the New Year’s Honours list.

Professor Jan Burns
Professor Jan Burns

Professor Jan Burns, who is Head of School of Psychology, Politics and Sociology at Christ Church University, has been awarded an MBE after creating an eligibility system for them. She was motivated by their exclusion from the 2009 Paralympic games in Sydney and her work resulted in 120 athletes from 36 countries being allowed to participate in 2012 in London. Her next target is to help include intellectually-disabled athletes compete in the next Paralympic Winter games in 2018.

Professor Sarah Spurgeon
Professor Sarah Spurgeon

An OBE has been awarded to Professor Sarah Spurgeon, 51, who heads the School of Engineering and Digital Arts at the University of Kent. It recognises her services to engineering during a long career which began after she graduated with a first class honours degree from the University of York in 1985.

In particular, it is for her work as chairman of the Ingenious Funding Panel of the Royal Academy of Engineering which supports creative public engagement with engineering. The projects include Ingenious Busking – a series of street theatre shows themed around the work of engineers and Structurally Found which ran during the 2013 Open House London weekend. In February, she will succeed Lord Oxburgh as President of the Institute of Measurement and Control.

Jennifer Rafferty a research accounts manager at the University of Kent, has an MBE for services to higher education.

Fiona Keyte of Time Out
Fiona Keyte of Time Out

A woman who dedicates her time to running a club for socially-deprived communities in Canterbury has been awarded an OBE. Mum-of-three Fiona Keyte, 53,  started the Christian project Time Out in Canterbury almost 10 years ago after she became concerned for women in a refuge and rehab centres and for disadvantaged mums on housing estates across the city.

It led to a ladies’ night, providing a banquet and time for them to relax and be spoiled.  A breakfast club followed, and there are now weekly meetings on two housing estates fand in the city centre where clients also get help with various life skills. Time Out also invites speakers from local churches, the city council, colleges and police, covering subjects like money matters, cooking, pottery, educational resources and relationship issues. Fiona said:

I was shocked when the letter arrived from the Cabinet Office and thought I was in trouble. But it was a happy surprise and my mum is delighted. It was so sweet of people to nominate me.

Chairman of the League of Friends to the Queen Victoria Hospital in Herne Bay, Gillian Fowler
Chairman of the League of Friends to the Queen Victoria Hospital in Herne Bay, Gillian Fowler

Two dedicated volunteers from Herne Bay and Whitstable have also been recognised with awards in the Honours List. Gillian Fowler and Emma Callan have both been given the British Empire Medals.

Mrs Fowler has been an active member of the community in Herne Bay for decades, as a magistrate, trustee at Strode Park Foundation, and most notably is the chairman of the Queen Victoria Hospital League of Friends.

It has been a tough year for the town’s hospital after it was announced that outpatient services were to be moved to Whitstable. But Mrs Fowler was at the forefront of a campaign to defend the services. She served as a secretary for the League for 20 years, and has been the chairman since 1998. She said:

I was very surprised when I got the letter but obviously very thrilled. It’s lovely because it has been a really tough year. It’s taken a bit out of all of us.

Mrs Callan, 30, from Whitstable, started working for the Home Office in 2007 and went as a volunteer for Christian Aid to India. After seeing the difficulties of people trying to enter the country, she decided to train as a counsellor. Now after five years of training while on the job she dedicates one day a week to help the Waymark Counselling Trust in Canterbury.

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